In Review: Cleopatra in Space–Book One: Target Practice
Published by Scholastic, April 29, 2014. 169 pages. Paperback at $12.99 and Hardcover at $22.99. Also available as an eBook. Intended for ages 8 – 12.
The cover: The year is never specified, but it is the future, as evidenced by the flying ships, the ray gun in her hand, the grim looking alien holding four ray guns, her classic Star Trek attire, and the boy holding some type of orb covered in microcircuitry and a sonic screwdriver device. This is a terrific image by writer/artist Mike Maihack which could hold its own with any other graphic novels out there. I love the cartoony look of the cat and the alien, and how the boy’s eyes are dots as opposed to the eyeballs with pupils on the title character. Very well done. Overall grade: A+
The premise: From the back cover: “When a young Cleopatra (yes, that Cleopatra) finds a mysterious table that zaps her to the far, really far future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. she enrolls in Yasiro Academy, a high-tech school with classes like algebra, biology, alien languages (which Cleo could do without), and combat training (which is more Cleo’s style). With help from her teacher Khensu and new friends, Cleo learns what it takes to be a great leader — all while trying to figure out how she’s going to get her homework done, make friends, and avoid detention!” Nice summary of a girl out of time, enrolled in a school, going through all the difficulties that most students go through, yet destined to save the galaxy. If this were just a “normal” book without pictures I would have looked forward to reading it. Overall grade: A
The characters: Cleo is fun. She’s not fond of school, frequently gets into trouble (in the past and present), yet tries to be a normal girl, who just happens to have the moniker of “savior” around her 24/7. This makes her sound like a female Harry Potter, but she’s not. She’s older when this book begins and she’s spunkier. Akila is her overly happy roommate who’s doing all that she can to help Cleo acclimate and succeed in her classes. She’s fun just for her personality. Brian is a tinkerer and, as revealed by Cleo, smitten with Akila. He leaves his work unfinished throughout his stereotypical messy room, but he was fun as well and contributes a fabulous looking device to the book. Khensu is a talking cat who happens to be one of her teachers. In the future, it seems, all cats can talk and they all have positions of authority. Khensu cracked me up constantly, reminding me of myself and my peers. The bad guy as stated by the back cover is Xaius Octavian. He’s in the book for one panel; he’s the larger threat that Cleo has to work up to confronting. For this book, her foes are the natives on Tawris, who are a little more advanced than she expected. Each character and group was entertaining and fun (I really can’t use that word enough). Overall grade: A+
The settings: The Bisu Jungle on Tawris, ancient Egypt, and planet Mayet, where her school is located. Each of these settings expanded the universe of this series and looked great and held several surprises. I’m a sucker for classic native jungle environments, so that was the highlight for me. Overall grade: A+
The action: Most of it comes from the opening and closing chapters, which are the same outing on Tawris (the book begins in the present, and then flashes back to how Cleo got in this situation, before resuming the tale in the present). The majority of the book is Cleo’s adapting to the future and trying to make her way through the school system. The drama, and laughs along the way, were action enough in those scenes. Overall grade: A+
The conclusion: Great ending, with some conflict among characters hinted at, and promise of a sequel for next year. In itself, this book ends well. Overall grade: A+
The illustrations: This is a graphic novel in the purest sense; not a compilation of individual books slapped together and stuck with that catch all title. Maihack can draw beautifully. His past and future settings are rich enough to get lost in. His characters are fun (There I go again) and their expressions priceless. I found myself laughing at the cats’ reactions more so than that of the students’. He’s got a firm grasp on every visual element of this book. Professor Javel was a scene stealer–More please! Overall grade: A+
The final line: I would encourage any female or male reader to check this out. It’s fun, full of action, and has enough similarities to what tweens go through in school to be completely relatable. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics for TrekCore.com. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two, and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.